Medical Negligence Claims and Covid – The Key Considerations

While a growing number of countries appear to be recovering from the health impact of the coronavirus, we’ve still seen a staggering 173 million cases and 3.73 million fatalities worldwide (as of June 7th).

Certainly, the pandemic has placed incredible strain on healthcare providers across the globe, with the UK’s NHS particularly under pressure as the number of people waiting for operations nationwide increased to more than five million.

Because of this, there’s an ongoing debate concerning medical negligence claims on these shores, and whether health workers should be given some added protection in the wake of Covid-19. Let’s find out more.

What is a Medical Negligence Claim?

Let’s start with the basics, as the term a medical negligence claim refers to the administrative process of seeking financial compensation in instances where an act of negligence has occurred while under the care of a qualified healthcare professional.

To be successful, a claimant needs to prove that the care provided fell below the standard of a competent medical professional, while they’ll also need to showcase demonstrable damage and prove that this would not have otherwise occurred were it not for an act (or acts) of negligence.

You can also process a medical negligence claim on behalf of others, if they’ve died due to a negligent medical treatment or are simply unable to take legal action themselves due to limitations in their capacity.

In terms of time-limitations, you’ll usually have to lodge a claim at court within three years of the claimant becoming aware of any medical issues, which in most instances is when the negligent act in question occurred.

Of course, there may be certain times and instances where claiming for medical negligence carries exceptions, particularly if the patient in question is under the age of 18 or lacks mental capacity.

Judges may make other exceptions too, although this is unlikely and it’s far better to follow the established guidelines when considering a claim.

Why is There a Debate in the Wake of Covid-19?

 The question that remains, of course, is why should there be temporary exceptions or exemptions made to medical negligence laws in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic?

Well, one fundamental argument revolves around the exceptional circumstances created by Covid-19 and the sustained lack of preparedness and organisation. This issue was exacerbated by a fundamental lack of funding and personnel, leaving staff members exposed and forced to operate in less-than-optimal conditions.

It can also be argued that healthcare workers operating in such conditions should be afforded the same level of protection as companies that develop vaccines. Remember, the current legislation prohibits you from taking legal action against firms like Pfizer or Modern if you suffer from severe Covid-19 vaccine effects, while it’s highly unlikely that the government will compensate you for damages either.

This is to encourage developers to cultivate vaccines quickly and efficiently, and there’s an argument that healthcare workers should be afforded similar considerations in the current climate.

Of course, the counter argument is that qualified healthcare workers and medical professionals should always be responsible for their actions, and that patient safety should remain of paramount importance at all times.

Several commentators have also said that the virus, no matter how prevalent it may be, shouldn’t affect the decisions taken by doctors or how other conditions are handled. This makes sense on a fundamental level, although it’s hard not to factor in the exceptional circumstances that have been created by Covid in the UK.

Ultimately, this is a difficult and sensitive debate, as both healthcare workers and patients need to be adequately safeguarded in the current climate. This requires a balanced and nuanced approach, and one that doesn’t contravene anyone’s rights.


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